Giving to Cancer Research

Lavender ribbon - cancer awarenessOver the course of December, we’ve been giving away all sorts of tips and goodies for you to enjoy as part of our Christmas Calendar. Today, we’ve decided to give differently.

The greatest thing we all have to be grateful for is our health, which gives us the freedom to do what we want and live the life we want. We can now live longer and healthier than ever before. However, cancer is a vicious illness which can affect our loved ones much too easily. My cousin suffered from leukaemia in her teens but came out healthy and strong, and MacStories‘ Viticci is fighting his own battle, as he shared recently.

Unfortunately, there is still much we don’t understand about cancer and some, like Steve Jobs, don’t necessarily win their fight.

We will be donating £1000 to Cancer Research UK this Christmas, hoping that together we can make a difference.

Alfred Powerpack and the Mac App Store (or not)

Note: Before I start, this only affects software obtained through the Mac App Store. Any software purchased outside of the Mac App Store isn’t affected by this and continues as before.

The Mac App Store and Sandboxing

The Mac App Store is currently in transition. From March 2012 (update: Apple delayed it until June 2012), all new submissions / updates need to be sandboxed.

Sandboxing is a way of protecting users from malicious or naughty software by severely restricting the access an application has to underlying resources. It also makes the app approval process easier for Apple as sandboxed apps simply cannot do things outside their own resources. While this works remarkably well on iOS (I am personally happy to be in the “walled garden” on my phone), it really changes the landscape for OS X applications.

As you know, Alfred isn’t a self-contained application like a game, graphics package or todo list. Many of the things Alfred does are to do with OS X itself… he searches, navigates and opens files and apps on your Mac, he runs AppleScript to interact with other applications, he even allows you to create and run lower-level shell or AppleScript extensions… he is basically your quick interface into the heart of OS X. This is where Alfred starts to throw his toys out of the [sand]box.

I would LOVE Alfred’s Powerpack in the Mac App Store

Having the Powerpack in the Mac App Store would not only bring me more revenue, but it’s also a trusted discovery channel for new users – I *know* Alfred would have significantly more Powerpack users by selling through this channel.

Alfred has always used safe, public APIs and been extremely well behaved. Nevertheless, sandboxing means that many of the “OS X allowed” Powerpack features mentioned above would need to be limited or removed if I wanted to continue selling through the Mac App Store from and after March 2012.

Therefore, the Powerpack won’t be going in the Mac App Store [quite yet]

Alfred’s users are most important in this decision. I want to do the best thing for users rather than maximising the money I could get from the Powerpack. As such, I will be keeping the Powerpack out of the Mac App Store until the shortcomings of sandboxing are fully understood and I can make a full evaluation of wether this suits Alfred or not.

ULTIMATELY: The scenario I want to avoid…

If the Powerpack went into the Mac App Store for v1.0 at the end of this month (which I could very well do) and then in March 2012, the Mac App Store sandboxing policy is strongly enforced, I would be unable to provide further updates through the Mac App Store without significantly changing or removing features which do not comply with the sandboxing policy.

I *WOULD NOT* want to provide an update to users that removes features which people are already using and enjoying just to get the latest version into the Mac App Store. This is a problem which may plague current apps in the Mac App Store as well as Alfred, and it wouldn’t be fair on anybody.

But what if you want the Powerpack?

Just remember, the Mac App Store is one of many ways to buy software for your Mac, and the sandbox restrictions only affect software sold / bought through the Mac App Store. Your freedom as a consumer still remains!

To make things easier for Alfred users, I have recently changed Alfred Powerpack’s payment process to use our own bespoke system based on the excellent Foxycart. You no longer need to sign up for Google Checkout to buy the Powerpack as we now accept Credit / Debit cards and PayPal directly. Foxycart is also heavily PCI and Safe Harbor compliant and we do not store credit card information, which means you can buy with the utmost confidence.

I do hope that the sandboxing guidelines are relaxed or that at least Apple provides further mechanisms to interact with OS X before March as I would love to use the Mac App Store as another way to bring the Powerpack to Alfred’s users.

Version 1.0 is just around the corner

This being said, Alfred is just about to hit 1.0, an extremely exciting time for me! He is better than ever and this is just the start of great things to come for him. Take a look at the change log to see what’s coming or, for the more adventurous, why not download the development version to have a play and help us test it :D

Also remember that buying the Powerpack now will save you some dosh as he is only £12 until v1.0 is released!


Power Up!: Payment Process Gets An Upgrade

When we first launched the Powerpack a year ago, we set up Google Checkout as the primary payment system. It was easy to set up, it was affordable and it meant Andrew could get back to adding new features to Alfred.

Opinions about Google Checkout were very divided; Some of you liked it but many felt Google knew enough about them already without handing their card details over. I handled numerous PayPal transactions manually; not great as the manual license creation meant there was a delay, and if I’ve learned anything about Alfred users is that you’re keen to play with Powerpack features as soon as you can! :)

Foxy CartAfter much research and investigation, we opted for the excellent Foxy Cart platform to handle the checkout process. The lovely Zaharenia did a great job of making your checkout experience as pleasant experience by prettying it all up!

As a result, buying the Powerpack is now a smoother and simpler process, with debit/credit card or PayPal option, as you prefer. Best of all, no need to dig around online for your license code, it’ll arrive straight to your inbox, wearing its bowler hat proudly.

If you’ve yet to buy your own copy of the Powerpack, why not grab it now? Do give us a shout when you’ve made your purchase as we’d love your feedback.


New Support Site & Over 100 Awesome Alfred Extensions

Since we released version 0.9.9, you have been creating some fantastic extensions to improve your productivity.

We published the first few extensions in August to give you a taster for what could be done with extensions. Powerpack users have since created over 100 extensions so we’ve added a whole new section to our new support site to show off the best extensions.

The new support site

In preparation for version 1.0 and Alfred being all grown up, we’ve created a new support site. On it you will find:

Huge thanks go out to Wikidot for the platform itself and to Bryce from Roaring Apps for suggesting it early on. Also, Zaharenia, who has done a great job wrestling Wikidot into the design you’re seeing today.

Submitting your own extensions

As so many great extensions are being sent our way, I wrote a little guide to submitting an extension. By following 3 simple steps, you’ll help us make the most of the Extensions section of the site and we’ll be able to give you credit for your creation.

Note: If you’re one of the early birds who created a script we’ve already listed, please help us by adding the information in the guide above to your extension’s page.

Finally, we can’t say it enough – thank you so much for your energy and support. We love seeing the extensions, custom themes, custom searches and everyday uses you’ve found for Alfred, so keep tweeting us and telling your friends about Alfred. You make every day of work much more fun! :)

Peace, love and bowler hats,

Giveaway: Celebrate the Powerpack’s 1st birthday with a silly hat picture!

A lot can happen in a year. 12 months ago, we introduced the Powerpack as a very useful add-on to the free version of Alfred. The first Powerpack release had three main features: File System navigation, Result actions and basic control of iTunes with the initial Mini Player.

Since then, the Powerpack has grown and grown, adding significant functionality with every release and over 12 major features. Have a peek at the change log to see just how much has changed. And there’s still so much more to come!

Celebrating with a giveaway

To celebrate the Powerpack’s 1st birthday, we’ve decided to have fun and give away a few treats – seeing as we can’t send you all cake in the post. The winners will receive Alfred goodies and a Powerpack license (or an upgrade to Mega Supporter for existing users).

Andrew Jack and Vero in silly hats

How to enter? Here’s the fun part:

To enter this giveaway you’ll need to show us your style. The sillier the better, we think, and the winners will be chosen based on their originality so get creative!

1. Take a picture of you wearing a silly hat, 2. Tweet the following message:

Wear a #sillyhat & join the @alfredapp giveaway fun: – here is my hat…

If you are logged into the Twitter website,
use this button to tweet: Click to tweet

Don’t forget to add the #sillyhat hashtag and your picture to your tweet, as this is how we’ll find your tweets! For example, here is my tweet:

Wear a #sillyhat and join the @alfredapp giveaway fun! – here is my hat

You only have 3 days to enter this giveaway so don’t delay! We will post the winners on Friday 26th August 2011. The competition is now closed and we’ve announced the winners below. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Announcing the winners

We’ve absolutely LOVED every contribution; from the traditional to the quirky. We’ve laughed our heads off at some of the more… original ones! And finally, we’ve picked five winners.

The winners will get each a Powerpack or upgrade to Mega Supporter, as well as some Alfred goodies in the mail.

As we truly believe that it isn’t about winning, but about taking part, as your mum told you after the school football game, we’re giving everyone who participated a 25% discount on their very own Powerpack/upgrade. Simply email us with a link to your #sillyhat tweet and we’ll issue a manual discounted invoice for you :)

Without further ado, here are our five winners:

Silbert, for his magnificent top hat and magnifying glass (and smurf)

Casey Crowdis for… wearing a dog on his head

Christine for her tasty watermelon hat

Steven Pilkington for the rather awesome Sonic the Hedgehog hat

Scott Is Loud, who happily wears a colander on his head (and is also Canadian, woot!)

Sneak peek: “Neighbours” feature for Alfred 0.9

This was a parody post for April 1st. Unfortunately, Universal Powerline Cloud™ technology which allows for effortless and security free connection to your neighbours networks doesn’t exist :)

Over the past few weeks, Andrew has been working on a new feature for version 0.9 which we’ve kept under wraps until now. This feature will make Alfred the most useful app in your household; it will help you communicate effectively with your community and influence what happens behind closed doors. Alfred will be more powerful than ever before.

So without further ado, here’s a sneak peak of “Neighbours”, the greatest feature for Alfred yet:

“Neighbours” feature

Neighbours feature

With the new “Neighbours” feature, no house will ever be an island again. Just use the keyword “neighbour”* inside the main Alfred window and choose from the available list of neighbourhood computers.

Neighbours feature

Once you’ve chosen a computer to connect to, use Alfred with the keywords and shortcuts that you’re used to. Alfred will help you quickly find documents on your neighbour’s Mac or PC. Check out Jimmy’s latest school report card, connect to their music library, or copy over the files you have been chatting about.

Security & hassle free

Because we are using new Universal Powerline Cloud™ technology, Alfred will be able to effortlessly connect to your neighbours networks and computers without having the hassle of authentication. Even better, Alfred doesn’t need to be running on their computer (Mac or PC) to be able to browse and search their files.

It’s convenient and fast and you’ll never have to wait for your neighbour to take the time to send the files over! Just pop into Alfred, quickly identify the file you want, maybe take a peek at what they have been up to over the past few days and you are done, without them even having to know.

We give you Alfred Neighbours – Bringing you and your neighbours much closer together.

* As Alfred is a true English butler, you are required to spell it “neighbour”. No alternative keyword will be accepted.

We’re heading to South by Southwest Interactive

Next week, the Alfred team (Andrew, Anna and myself) will be heading to Austin, Texas. South by Southwest Interactive is a conference held in the city that likes to keep it weird. Developers, designers, marketing types and all sorts of interesting people gather for a few days of interesting talks and keynotes, as well as a lot of Tex Mex and margaritas.

If you’re attending, please let us know on Twitter (@alfredapp) or look out for Anna and I who will both be wearing Alfred bowler hats. We’ll be giving away Alfred goodies and stickers, so come and grab a sticker that you can wear with pride!

We’ll no doubt tweet and announce an informal Alfred meetup, but don’t wait for it, come say hi!


[Photo credit: David Herrera on Flickr]